Cooper: Obligation to Ragged Island remains

Cooper: Obligation to Ragged Island remains
Chester Cooper

NASSAU, BAHAMAS- Exumas and Ragged Island MP Chester Cooper yesterday criticized the Minnis administration over its “abandonment” of Ragged Island.

Cooper underscored deep concerns for recovery efforts on islands impacted by Hurricane Dorian during his contribution the debate on the Disaster Preparedness and Response Amendment Bill, 2019.

“Given the lack of progress in Ragged Island, two years later, given the depth of the neglect and disregard shown to Ragged Island, it is fair to say I am deeply concerned for the people of Abaco and Grand Bahama,” Cooper said, as he explained why he does not support the bill.

“You see I’ve lived this movie before, I’ve watched an episode in this vain and I am concerned that when the cameras leave the scenes, and they will, I am concerned based on the track record of this government, that the people of Abaco and Grand Bahama could also face this blatant, reckless neglect, that we saw with the people of Ragged Island.”

The small island in southern Bahamas was battered by Hurricane Irma in 2017 and deemed “uninhabitable” by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).

Following the storm, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announced that the island would become a green island.

The government, however, has not released a plan on how this will be facilitated.

During the 2019/2020 budget debate, Public Works Minister Desmond Bannister announced the government will reconstruct government facilities on Ragged Island in stages over a number of years.

The cost of which amounted to $12 million.

Yesterday, Cooper said: “I can report to you with certainty that the people of Ragged Island have lost faith in this government.

“They believe nothing that you tell them. They believe nothing that they hear from you, and they only believe what they see. And they don’t see very much.”

Cooper noted that two years later the island still has no nurse, clinic, school, teachers, police, police station, post office, government services, or administration building.

Bahamas Power and Light announced in August that U.S.-based company Salt Energy LLC had been awarded the RFP to build a solar and battery storage solution on Ragged Island.

The agreement would result in the production of more than 90 percent of the island’s energy requirements when done.

But Cooper claims the island has seen no movement on this front either.

He urged the government to apologize to the people of Abaco, and further called on the Minnis administration to produce a full report of donations received on behalf of the island and present it to the country.

Cooper announced he is working with a charity to build a community center and hurricane shelter on Ragged Island that would be able to withstand 200 mph winds.

“We in Ragged Island and the people of Ragged Island are resilient people, we will do all we can to help ourselves,” Cooper added.

“But we will not absolve this government of its obligation and responsibility to act fairly and compassionately to all Bahamians across our country.”